Thursday, July 19, 2007

Are You Sleeping Enough for Your Health?

Ayurveda, Stress and Insomnia

On a typical day in America, 125 million people wake up feeling exhausted. They reach to shut off the alarm clock with bleary eyes, vowing to get more sleep. But for 50 percent of the nation's population, getting a good night's sleep is as difficult as flying to the moon.

Indeed, insomnia and fatigue are now considered America's top health problems. Researchers have identified lack of sleep as a cause of serious disorders ranging from diabetes to high stress levels. The results show that it is taking a huge toll on the quality of life -- and the health -- of millions.

Here are some research facts that might make you head for the bed: sleep deprivation is credited with 60 percent of road accidents -- and drivers who stayed awake over 17 hours suffered impaired coordination, reaction time and judgment worse than drivers who were legally drunk.

As far as health goes, those who sleep fewer than six hours a night don't live as long as those who sleep seven hours or more. Sleeping only four hours a night can cause weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure. And the disasters are not limited to health -- sleeplessness costs the U.S. economy $150 billion a year in higher levels of worker stress and reduced productivity, estimates the National Sleep Foundation.Stress and Insomnia: A Vicious Cycle

What are the causes of this epidemic? One of the reasons that insomnia (defined as having trouble sleeping) is on the rise in America is the high stress levels and time pressures associated with modern living. We are increasingly a 24/7 society. Many people would gladly get more sleep if they could, but the information age, which was supposed to make everything more efficient, has just made everything more busy.

Americans frequently fall into a vicious cycle, with stress during the day causing them to be too tense or worried to fall asleep at night. And then the lack of sleep, in turn, creates more stress on the job and at home. Others simply choose to short-change their sleep.

Our society seems to place a moral value on sleeping as little as possible," says Dr. Eve Van Couter, head of a recent research study at the University of Chicago.

For whatever reason, Americans today often sleep less than six hours a night, making them highly vulnerable to sleep disorders, the stress syndrome, and to multiple health problems.

Natural Solutions Needed Unfortunately, most people are treating insomnia either by going to the drugstore and buying over-the-counter drugs, or by consulting their medical doctor.

Neither solution is working. Over-the-counter drugs contain antihistamines, which knock you out, but don't create a good quality of sleep or solve the underlying problem.

Plus, they undermine the immune system. Doctors tend to prescribe valium-like drugs that are addictive within even a week of use.

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